With the Southwestern Illinois College Blue Storm in the midst of its first losing streak in more than a month, sophomore Ty Stahl played the role of stopper to perfection Saturday against Lincoln Trail College.
A crafty left-hander, Stahl silenced the Statesmen offense with a complete game and Maciej Milas had a key two-run single to key the SWIC offense, as the Blue Storm salvaged one game of its weekend series with a 6-1 win.
Ranked 27th in the NJCAA Division I poll, SWIC dropped the first game Saturday 4-2 for its third straight loss But when Milas came up with two-out, two-run single off Lincoln Trail starter Zack Denney in the first inning, it gave Stahl all the run support he would need.
Sean Murley added a run-scoring single in the fourth. He then put the game away with a two-run double in the fifth as SWIC regained a 1/2 game lead over Lincoln Trail in the battle for the Region 24 regular-season title and top seed in the region tournament.
SWIC is 24-12 for the season and 16-8 in Region 24 play. Lincoln Trail is 16-7 in the region.
“They (Lincoln Trail) have four region games left and we have three. If we should tie for the title. They would win it, because they beat us two out of three. We’ve got three games left with Lake Land next week. All we can do is keep winning,’’ SWIC coach Neil Fiala said. “We’re still in good shape. I would have liked to have won another game this weekend, but as far the tournament and seedings go, we’re still all right.’’
Lincoln Trail, which took advantage of the poor control by starting pitchers Conner Buneger on Thursday and Caleb Arbeiter in the first game Saturday, did not receive a single walk from Stahl, who faced only 24 hitters in seven innings.
“Ty pitched a great ballgame for us,’’ Fiala said. “The difference was simple over the past two games. Ty threw strikes. In the previous two game, our starting pitchers either walked or hit batters with pitches 12 times. We gave them too many scoring chances.’’
In game two, it was the Lincoln Trail pitchers who had trouble hitting the strike zone.
In the bottom of the first, Adam Bauer singled with two outs and when Jake Daily and Dylan Johnson drew walks, the Blue Storm had the bases loaded.
Milas then followed with a soft liner which fell into short left field and two runs scored.
Murley singled home Adam Schnurbusch in the fourth inning. He later broke the game open with his two-run double in the fifth, driving in Jacob Monti and Milas.
Stahl lost his bid for a shutout in the sixth inning on a one-out double by Cody Hall.
While Stahl was razor sharp, Arbeiter was anything but in his five-inning stint in game one. The former Chester standout walked two and hit two batters as the Statesmen built a 4-0 lead.
An RBI single by Jack Holden and a hit batsman gave Lincoln Trail a 2-0 lead in the second inning and run-scoring singles by Chris Deavalle and KJ Rogers in the fifth increased the lead to 4-0.
SWIC relievers Tyler Herbert and Austin Nunnery combined to hold Lincoln Trail scoreless over the last four innings.
Held in check by Statesmen starter Weston Rivers for the first four innings, SWIC broke through with a run in the fifth on a double by Monti, a ground out and a sacrifice fly by Schnurbusch.
The Blue Storm’s next chance came in the eighth inning, when singles from Luke Bakula and Schnurbusch and Dan Holst loaded the bases with one out.
Adam Bauer then made it 4-2 when he grounded into a fielder’s choice. But two pitches later, Rivers picked Bauer off first to end the inning.